My final breakfast in Crowthorne was not eventful, except to say that I had only barely finished my cereal when the manager let me know my taxi was waiting. After a quick and amiable disagreement over the time – me arguing that it was in fact five minutes earlier than what the driver said, with one hand ever-so-close to a great cuppa that was steaming on the table – I jumped in the taxi for a trip that was the polar opposite of my arrival in town: quick, easy and no bag-dragging required. Talk about luxury!
I tried my best (not really) and after about a minute asked the driver if he’d watched the football match between England and Italy the previous night. He sadly admitted he had, his voice laden with both British skepticism of sporting success and its twin, the thwarted hope of possibility. I felt bad. Not because England lost but because they had lost to the team that had, through acting rather than skill, stolen the game from Australia back in 2006. I’m not bitter at all.
On arrival at the station we were greeted with what sounded like a local bird being beaten to death with a rubber mallet by a farmer, but was in fact a burglar alarm. Just as loud but not nearly as entertaining. It was good of the ticket seller (sitting on the bench on his mobile, screaming into it over the noise rather than walk away for the conversation) to explain to each new station attendee that “I THINK IT’S THE BURGLAR ALARM – SOMEONE MUST HAVE TRIED TO BREAK IN EH? BLOODY KIDS EH?”. You’ve got to love it – people are people, everywhere.
The train trip between Crowthorne and London Paddington was uneventful and helping a fellow passenger with their bag at one stage meant I made a coffee-buddy for the hour wait before the train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh.
I managed to snag a seat on the East Coast carriage that wasn’t reserved, and so was able to stay in place the whole way up. Four hours is a long time on a train, or anywhere really, but luckily – or unluckily – I sat next to a lovely Scottish lady who enjoyed telling me her life story. Admittedly, I do tend to keep asking questions or promoting further conversation in these situations. My grand plans of doing some blogging and not running five days behind myself were well and truly defeated.
On arrival at Edinburgh Waverley, I said goodbye to my adopted Scotch friend and saw Ruairidh (pronounced in full-blooded Australian as “Rory” but it sounds much more lyrical – and accurate – in a Scottish accent, kind of like “aye”, “Edin-burrow” and “bloody Mel Gibson”). RJ is a teacher on secondment to Education Scotland, but who normally teaches students History and Modern Studies at high school. He stood a head above most of the crowd and we shook hands heartily as the people swirled around us, a warm welcome in a cold city.
We went for some afternoon tea, at a pub. Over the next few days I would be introduced to many ideas by RJ (@rjnicolson), one of my favourites being the addition to any meal of a “Glasgow Salad” (plate of chips). He took me to his home, a flat in the New Town area of Edinburgh, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has features such as private parks, paved streets and bricked up windows due to the Window Tax that was abolished in the mid-1850s. It made me think of Wellington in New Zealand or what I imagine San Francisco in the US to be. This was also because Edinburgh is in the process of laying down new tram lines. Just don’t mention it around the locals.
After a nice dinner and a few cuppas, RJ introduced me to a selection of Scotch whiskeys, which I forever more will have with no ice or coke but rather with a dash o’ water. It does indeed widen the flavours so that u could taste the hint of vanilla, and a distinct fruity aspect that is infused in the whiskey because it has a second turn in a barrel that was previously used for port.
I slept very well that night, and hoped I would as the next day I was to be RJ’s guest at a TeachMeet in Glasgow.